On RTÉ Radio 1’s Marian Finucane Show

Over the last few weeks, The Marian Finucane Show on RTÉ Radio 1 has been running a competition in search of Ireland’s Greatest Woman. Rich or poor, living or dead, rural or urban, this woman can have made her contribution in any walk of Irish life.

RTÉ Radio 1 listeners took to the airwaves to pitch for the person they believe deserved the accolade of Ireland’s Greatest Woman and following a nation wide poll, Nano Nagle was the overall winner with 23.5% of the votes. Mary Robinson came a close second with 21.4%, while Michelle Smith polled 19.8%.

Nano Nagle was nominated by Sister Jo Piggott of the North Presentation Convent in Cork City who celebrated her 50th anniversary as a professed Sister last October. Cork born, Nano Nagle (1718 – 1784) is credited with establishing girl’s education in Ireland through her work with the Presentation Sisters which she founded.

For further information please contact: Sandra Byrne, RTÉ Radio Press Office, 01-208 2506/ 087- 249 3048,

Issued by RTÉ Radio
Date: 24 June 2005



The ten finalists in Ireland’s Greatest Woman Competition were:
1) Nano Nagle, 1718 – 1784. Born in Cork, she is credited with establishing girl’s education in Ireland through her work with the Presentation Sisters which she founded.
2) Mary Robinson, 1944 – present. Mary Robinson is originally from Co. Mayo. She started off as a very successful barrister until she was elected as President of Ireland in 1990. After her role as President, Mary went on and served as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She currently works with the E.G.I (Ethical Global Initiative) Mary was nominated by Deirdre Moore and Helen Crimin.
3) Michelle Smith, 1969 – Present. Born in Dublin, Michelle won four medals for swimming at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996. She was banned from competitive swimming for four years on foot of charges of manipulating a sample. Michelle was nominated by her husband, Erik De Bruin for this title.
4) St. Brigid, 451 – 525. Born in Faughert, Co. Louth, St. Brigid was a nun who founded a monastery in Co. Kildare and was ordained as a Bishop. Her feast day is celebrated on 1st February.
5) Grace O’Malley, 1530 – 1603. Born in Co. Mayo, Grace was involved in the family business of shipping and trading. Known as the ‘Pirate Queen’ she protected her clan at a time of growing power for the English Crown in Ireland.
6) Christina Noble, 1944 – present. Born in Dublin, Christina is mostly associated with The Christina Noble Foundation which works with street children of Vietnam.
7) Edel Quinn, 1907 – 1944. Edel was born in Co. Cork and joined the Legion of Mary in Dublin. In 1936, she was appointed Envoy to East and Central Africa, where she worked for The Legion of Mary until her death in Nairobi, Kenya in 1944.
8) Sophia McColgan, 1971 – present. Sophia’s father, Joseph McColgan was convicted of charges relating to the abuse if his children in 1995. He received a sentence of 238 years, the longest sentence ever handed down by an Irish Court. The family decided to speak out and tell their story to the public. Sophia wrote her story with Susan McKay called Sophia’s Story.
9) Dr. Kathleen Lynn, 1874 – 1955. Dr. Kathleen Flynn was a doctor, a member of the Irish Citizen Army and a founder of Saint Ultan’s Hospital for Sick Children in Charlemont Street, Dublin. She pioneered the B.C.G vaccination in Ireland and became a doctor after seeing the utter devastation of the famine that hit Mayo in the late nineteenth century. She was involved in the Women’s Suffrage Movement, in the 1913 Lockout and ultimately with The City Hall Garrison in the Easter Rising in 1916.
10) Nora Herlihy, 1910 – 1988. Nora was a primary school teacher originally from the Duhallow area, she taught in schools in the poorest parts of Dublin. From noticing how women had to struggle to meet ends meet she decided to try and improve their situation so she travelled to America where she studied the Credit Union movement. In the1950s the first Credit Union was established in Dublin under Nora’s guiding influence.


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